Pronunciation of suffixes in verb conjugation (open and closed vowels)

< Previous | Next >


New Member
Hello everyone,
I have been unsuccessfully trying to find out if there are some general rules on the openess/closeness of vowels in portuguese verb conjugation and thus I decided I would turn my attention to our language community and ask for help :)

Every textbook of portuguese will teach you, that stressed E and O in portuguese can either be closed or open. Avó vs. avô being the classic examples. We also know that in the standard positions, these stress marks are not written, such as in the word "faculdade" or "comer". As a foreigner, you therefore need to know that chuvosu has a closed o, whereas chuvosa has an open o. The same goes for ele and ela, esse vs essa.

Every text book will also tell you how the open or closed vowel (E or O) can make a difference. Yet I have not been able to find any rules if there are any, about the pronunciation of the suffixes in verb conjugation which is something that you need to do in any sentence and nonstop :)

Let me give you an example:

  1. A professora quer que nao falemos. We know that the E in falemos is stressed, but is it open or closed?
  2. Se tudo correr bem, ele vai estudar em Praga. We know that the -er in correr is stressed, it is infinitive, but is it open or closed? are all -er verbs closed in the infinitive or not?
The list could go on (falemos, tomemos, escrevesses....). I know where to look for the right way of spelling, but I have not been able to find out about the pronunciation. So my question is, does anyone have a link, a hint, or any guide where one could find a comprehensive guide not only about the suffixes, but also about their pronunciation?

I went as far as to buy a book in Germany, containing big tables of conjugation of verbs only to later find out that it does contain hints about the verb stem, but not about the endings (it tells you that como and comes changes, but it nowhere tells the suffix pronunciation. Apparently you are expected to know, but I searched in big german bookshops for some guides, yet none of the books addressed the pronunciation issue).

If anyone has any resources, please let me know :) You will make at least one language geek happy. :)

PS:I have uploaded a screen from the german textbook on portuguese verbs -er. They explain that eu colho / tu colhes changes (côlho, cólhes) and give rules in the footprint that in Europe, if the suffix starts with o, the pronunciation is closed, and open if it starts with e... Thus como, vs comes. But again, no word pronunciation of E in of colhemos.


  • fetonzio

    Brazilian Portuguese
    Let me just quickly answer this partially. Yes, all verbs ending in -er in the infinitive are closed. If it's the name of the verb, it's closed. Now I can see where some confusion could come in because for the verb poder (closed) you also have the future subjunctive puder, which is open.

    By the way, now that I think about it, I suppose that's the rule. Every time the conjugation ends in -er but it's not the infinitive or what I'm gonna call an infinitive clone, then it's open. So these future subjunctives are open:

    puder, tiver, quiser, estiver.

    Now, you see, there's actually big confusion in Brazil between the future subjunctive and the infinitive, because sometimes they are spelled the same. So in the sentence:

    Se eu comer...

    you are actually using the future subjunctive, but it looks the same as the infinitive. But you shouldn't worry about pronouncing them, because these clones of infinitives are pronounced the same as the infinitives (closed).
    Last edited by a moderator:


    Senior Member
    Portugal - Portuguese
    1. A professora quer que nao falemos. We know that the E in falemos is stressed, but is it open or closed?
    2. Se tudo correr bem, ele vai estudar em Praga. We know that the -er in correr is stressed, it is infinitive, but is it open or closed? are all -er verbs closed in the infinitive or not?
    1. A professora não quer que falemos. (fal[ê]mos) fechado.
    2. ...correr... (corr[ê]r) fechado.

    Since we are talking about pronunciation, it is important to tell us your target here. Are you interested in Brazilian or European variant?
    Regardless your target, I think you should find a website with sound check.
    That would be easier to all of us.
    However, we are here to help you in some questions you may have, but there's nothing better than listen for yourself.

    PS: In your screen --> (ò) wrong - (ó) correct. But yes, it means open (ó) or closed (ô).
    The only word that we use with that mark (grave accent) is (à / À).


    New Member
    thanks everyone for your replies. @pfaa09, thanks for the correction and I spotted the error too in the German edition.
    I meant the trouble is, whenever you find any book with pronunciation, they will only tell you the infinitive. And then you get to see the conjugation tables, but I have never seen anywhere any table showing also if the endings are open or closed.

    For example: Talvez soubesse... Is it soubêsse or soubésse? Sabemos. Is it sabémos or sabêmos?
    Every conjugation table just gives the endings, esse, esses.......emos, eis... but none I have come accross also includes an explanation abou the openess or closeness.

    @fetonzio suggested that future subjunctive and infinitive might differ in the openess of the terminal e (or maybe just with irregular verbs). So I am just curious, do you guys and girls, anyone, have a book explaining this too?


    Brazilian Portuguese
    Best thing I found is this dictionary: Significado / definição de jogo no Dicionário Priberam da Língua Portuguesa

    It doesn't have everything, but it has a lot. Unfortunately, if you type in a conjugation like 'souber,' although it will tell you what it is (a conjugation of saber), it won't give you the pronunciation of souber itself.

    But going over the entry for 'jogo,' you can see that right at the start, it gives you the pronunciation of the noun, indicating that it's a closed 'o'.
    jo·go |ô|

    Above that, you see that disappointing thing again: Although it tells you that 'jogo' is a conjugation of jogar, it doesn't tell you that that particular meaning of it (eu jogo) is pronounced open.

    But then, moving down, they give you the plural of the noun, indicating the open pronounciation:
    Plural: jogos |ó|.

    So you see it is a good resource, though it doesn't have everything.


    Senior Member
    Portugal - Portuguese
    soubesse... Is it soubêsse or soubésse? Sabemos. Is it sabémos or sabêmos?
    What is your target, Pt-Br or Pt-Eur?
    Sabemos (Pt-Br)= S[á]b[ê]mos
    Sabemos (Pt-Eur)= Sab[ê]mos.
    Open google translate, select [Português] and write: Sabemos
    click on the sound icon, right in the bottom of the text box. You will hear it in Pt-br.


    Senior Member
    Português do Brasil
    I think it’s gonna be nearly impossible to find any resource which explains this thoroughly. Portuguese has metaphony/umlaut, as you might already know, and it affects nouns and verbs. Just like in other languages, such as German, the vowel in the vicinities of the stressed vowel will explain the timbre change.

    Now, for the past tense of ‘comer’ and ‘saber’, for instance, as it has been explained above, the vowel is closed [e]. I think that’s true for all the -er verbs. I can’t recall any metaphony on that now. That’s probably because the past tense is formed by stem + suffix, simply. Since it’s quite regular and has no vowel change, it tends to stay stable throughout the entire verbal scheme.
    Now see that ‘poder’ and ‘puder’ have different vowel timbre, because the preceding vowel dictates that. The ‘o’ in ‘poder’ is closed [o], so is the ‘e’ [e]. But in ‘puder’, the ‘u’ changes the vowel to [ɛ].
    Same goes to ‘saber’, I assume the ‘u’ in the stem opens the vowel to [ɛ]. This influence is so strong, that many, many people tend to pronounce «soubesse» as /suˈbɛsi/ instead of /sowˈbɛsi/ or /soˈbɛsi/. See: escrevesse [e] vs soubesse [ɛ]. If the stem vowel hadn’t been raised, the pronunciation would be closed ’se eu sabesse’ [e]. Same with fazer, if it were regular, the pronunciation would probably be closed “se eu fazesse’ [e], but since the stem raises a vowel to «i», so: se eu fizesse [ɛ], pudesse [ɛ], etc. You can see similar things with other verbs, too. querER: se eu quisesse is open,[ɛ], if the stem were regular, it’d be probably closed “se eu queresse” [e]. What either «fazer», «querer», «pôr», «saber» have in common, beyond the fact that they all belong to the same “-er” group, is the vowel change (raising) in the stem. «comer» doesn’t have that, so it stays closed and “regular”.
    FAZER [e] > fizer / fizesse [ɛ]
    POER - PÔR > puser / pusesse [ɛ]
    SABER [e] > souber / soubesse [ɛ]
    QUERER [e] > quiser / quisesse [ɛ]
    compared to:
    COMER [e] > comer / comesse [e]

    So «i» and «u» trigger sound changes. Metaphony can also occur by influence of post tonic vowel, too. This explains «ele» [e] vs «ela» [ɛ]. The “a” in «ela» opens the vowel. Some other changes, especially in nouns, have deep roots such as Latin endings and may be difficult to explain by looking to Portuguese words, solely, but that’s another topic.
    Last edited:
    < Previous | Next >